What Makes a Good Guide for Hunting TV?
October 23, 2011
Guides. They can make or break a Petersen's Hunting TV hunt. I have nothing to do with booking the hunts, so guides are the wild card for me. What makes a good guide for hunting TV? This is something I've thought about a great deal over the thousands of hours I've spent following guides through deserts, forests, grasslands, savannas and jungles, over mountains and under brush and most importantly into plans that work and plans that fail.
There are guides I love and guides I loathe to the core of my being. If you've been on guided hunts, you probably wonder what kind of an a-hole hates guides. My perspective is very different than the paying hunter's for many reasons. The most obvious is the sheer number of guides I've worked with both in this and my previous position. I know what works and what fails and my employment is contingent on successfully taping hunts. An uncooperative guide is messing with my rice bowl.
The second reason is I'm generally not treated as well as a paying customer. This one cracks me up because a guide who would never be hostile to a paying customer who may tell a dozen of his buddies about his experience will treat me like shit despite the fact that my tale hits 86 million households across North America. Additionally, the typical client/guide dynamic consists of the client being very deferential toward the guide. Producing a high quality hunting show and endlessly deferring to a guide are mutually exclusive. I say all this to emphasize the points I make below. The guides I endorse are super guides.
In a perfect world a guide is a smoking hot female with a passion for gruff camera monkeys with limited social graces, but this never happens. So for the male guides I'm stuck with, I think it comes down to three main characteristics: Confidence, honesty and motivation.
What does confidence look like in the field? The guide is relaxed. He knows what his area holds and he knows how to access the animals. Day one and day five feel much the same because his strategies worked so many times in the past. Panicked guides don't listen. They rush and refuse my requests because they mistakenly believe that if there is an animal on the ground, the taping is a success. They rush everything. I wish I could post a list of these morons.
Honesty? Guides are like men in any other vocation, the honesty varies greatly. Mainly, I see dishonesty around what an area holds. This usually happens when the outfit has leftover inventory they are desperate to sell. Honest guides, who include mostly all I've worked with, usually fit just right in the same bracket as confident guides.
I look for the motivation in everyone I work with. As a camera monkey, the best scenario is this: The guide is the owner of the outfit and is motivated by the potential promotion the TV show and the magazine offer. He is looking toward the future growth of his operation. He's usually the old bull, has mad skills and doesn't like to mess around so we end up in a honey hole.
The follow photo gallery contains my favorite guides, outfitters and/or professional hunters in the world in the order of favoritism. You want a top guide for your show? Google 'em.
Motivated: Harry Classens, South African PH
The man on the left in this photo is the legendary South African PH, Harry Classens. Harry is one of the most genuine human beings I've ever met. Hanging out with him makes me want to be a better person. He's funny, kind, very easy to work with, highly intelligent, relaxed and keeps a top-notch facility. I admire the man so much I don't even hold it against him that he makes the camera monkey sleep in a wooden shed between his hacienda and the worker's village. Some day I'll get to sleep in one of the big houses.
Harry is incredibly confident and honest. He cracks me up because he lacks the motivation piece. He really doesn't seem to care about the publicity much although he makes it clear the print is at least interesting to him while TV, well, TV isn't going to sell any of his hunts. You know what? I think he's right. So how is it he's a thousand times easier to work with than the dozen or more pain in the ass North American guides who could actually book hunts off of TV and yet feel the need to argue when I ask for a cut shot?
Harry complies easily with my requests for everything from reenactments, to interviews to cut shots. It is a pleasure to work with him. What motivates him? I guess just being a solid human being and an excellent host. Seriously, I always leave there wanting to be a better human being.
Honest: Trent Snyder of Silver Spur Outfitters
The man on the bottom left is Trent Snyder. He's the boss at Silver Spur Outfitters near Rifle, Colorado. I've taped a cougar hunt and an elk hunt with them. If you've ever hunted cougars, you know the logistics can be pretty intense. Between dogs, cutting tracks and unpredictable weather there are a lot of balls in the air.
Trent is cool as can be and one of the most cheerful guys I've ever met. Again, I've been around many, many guides and I can spot shadiness from long off, and Trent doesn't have a shady bone in his body. He's just fun to be around and it seems to me it's impossible to be this much fun and relaxed unless you're confident and honest.
My favorite story of Trent's cheerfulness and positivity is around when the phone rang one morning in the lodge during Mike Schoby's cougar hunt. Without being able to do his awesome accent, this will lose something, but read this with a heavy rural Colorado accent.
Trent: 'œYep, yep. Uh huh. Yep! Yep!'
He hangs up the phone.
Schoby excitedly as he pulls on boots: 'œDid he cut a track?'
Trent: 'œNope, nope. We're gonna' go get breakfast.'
Friendly: Bruno Rosich of Trophy Hunting Spain
Bruno Rosich is one of the genuinely friendliest human beings I've taped TV with. I'm not saying he doesn't have that fiery Spanish temper (they're all bipolar) I'm just saying he burns hot and fast like magnesium. Honest? Check. Confident? Check. Correct Motivation? Check. Real live retired model? Check.
Bruno knows his business. We've made three TV shows together now and are taping another one in the spring. I'm looking forward to it completely because Bruno knows and respects my work. He's enjoyed the fruits of his involvement with both the magazine and the TV show and frankly, he just does what I ask.
On the down side, he panders to my senior citizen boss by playing Lionel Richie in the car. This can be forgiven only because he takes me kayaking on the Mediterranean Sea.
Consummate Professional: Doyle Worbington of J&D Outfitters
The man on the right in this photo is Doyle Worbington one of the owners of J&D Outfitters and Guide Service .
He's the reason I wrote this blog. It's been awhile since I was out with just a plain old 'œgot his shit together' guide and Doyle reminded me that they exist. Doyle is like every guide in these photos and in my list of the Greatest TV Guides on the world. He is honest and confident. He is also looking at TV and print coverage to grow his already amazing business further.
When I first met Doyle he absolutely exuded genuine confidence. As a camera monkey, this usually means I'm not going to have to kill myself to do my job. Once we were out in the field, it was clear why he was so confident; we were surrounded and outnumbered by a fantastic number of bulls and a great cow to bull ratio and the son of a gun can call elk like he's one of them. We barely touched the massive expanse of land Doyle leases and pulled off a successful bow hunt in two days with the best elk footage I've ever captured.
Doyle is fun, funny, relaxed, enthusiastic, a consummate professional and one hell of a guy to hang out with. Not to mention he sounds like a great dad from the way he goes on about his son.
Panicked guides don't listen. They rush and refuse my requests because they mistakenly believe that if there is an animal on the ground, the taping is a success. They rush everything. I wish I could post a list of these morons.
Determined: Kirk Kelso, Mexico Hunting Guide
Kirk Kelso is behind me here. I'm pretty sure he really hated me at this moment. It was my second taping for Petersen's Hunting TV. I was a greenhorn in the genre and no matter how you slice it, Kirk Kelso is a full flavored experience of masculinity. He's a very lovable pain in the ass, but again he is completely confident in what he's doing and very honest. Honest to the point that if he hates you, you'll know.
We hunted together a second time and hit it off. Despite the fact that there wasn't much love between us the first time out, he did what I asked in the interest of making a good show. Again, this was in the very beginning of PHTV, so I was asking for much more than I needed, much more than I do today. He did it and without griping. Plus he's a funny son of a gun and one of those guys you can just plain count on.
Tough: Mike Hawkridge of British Columbia
Mike Hawkridge is second from the left in this photo. This is one hard-driving goat guide. Now, I'm no expert on mental health, but I am kind of an expert on observing guides and I've taped every goat show in Petersen's Hunting TV history. All guides are insane, but if you had to line them up and march them to the asylum, goat guides would need to head up the line to make sure they got a bed.
But if you go back and watch this episode, you will see unfettered confidence in action. It's one thing to tuck a hunter into a cozy whitetail blind and assure him he'll see something soon as you lock him in for the morning, but it's entirely different to explain that if he climbs for four to six hours up the side of a rock, he'll get within range of that white furry thing. Oh, and yes, it's a billy.
Generous: Stephan Bengtsson, Swedish Guide
Stephan Bengtsson is the unarmed man in this photo. He is incredibly calm, funny, charming, confident and generous. Generous? Absolutely, he green lighted lil' ol' camera monkey me on this friggin' Siberian roebuck out of the goodness of his hear. What guide wakes up in the morning and makes that plan? Stephan, that's who. So, admittedly it may appear that he bought my affection, but the truth is I would level with you if he wasn't great to work with for TV. Why can you be sure of this? I want a roebuck. I need my job.
I'm heading to Sweden in a week to tape another hunt and I'm looking forward to it greatly. I know I can count on the process being relaxed and fun. The food will be great, the accommodations will be fantabulous and the company will be pleasant. But, most importantly, I'm not worried about coming back with a great show. He and I will make it happen, no conflict, no stress just cooperation and productivity.